York Theatre Royal – until 8 June 2017.
What a phenomenal show, my hands still hurt from the standing ovation of applause and my cheeks still hurt from smiling at the wonderful finale sing-a-long.
I had no idea of the story or the music of the the Small Faces so it was new territory as I arrived in York for the show.
Directed by Tony McHale and written, directed and starring Carol Harrison All Or Nothing tells the electrifying yet bittersweet tale of Kenney Jones, Ian McLagan, Ronnie Lane and Steve Marriott; four charismatic young kids from East London with humour, attitude, passion and above all talent. They were rocketed into the big time, only to discover the path to fantastic success is paved with exploitation, betrayal and ultimately tragedy as they became the Small Faces.
There is clearly market for mod nostalgia in to which this retelling of the Small Faces rise and fall. There is a deep affection for a band unlucky enough to compete with The Beatles for chart-space. Shunning Lennon and McCartney as “Merseybeat girl music”, the Small Faces brought a new kind of hard-edged R’n’B to Sixties London.
All or Nothing certainly delivers the goods. Cheeky and reverential, it’s aimed at the hard-core fans, the loyal Small Faces fans who lost interest after the departure of Marriott and the arrival of Rod Stewart, and name change to the Faces.
Following on from highlights of Marriott’s teenage years – including allegedly setting fire to his school and starring on the West End in what could have been a promising career, the story follows the formation of the Small Faces in 1965.
The members of the band played by Samuel Pope, Stanton Wright, Josh Maddison, Stefan Edwards and Joseph Peters are all skilled actor musicians who act out the story and bring the songs of the Small Faces to the performance by playing live as a band throughout. Chris Simmons plays the role of older deceased Steve Marriott (younger Steve played by Samuel Pope) and narrates the story with a fag and drink in his hand.
Simmons’ performance as the older Steve and the guide through the story really stood out as he not only guided us through the story but also moved around the stage as a spirit of the future stepping back into the past, a lovely touch and a joy to watch as the cast didn’t even respond to him on the stage. Bittersweet and entertaining, the audience were drawn into his charisma whenever he spoke and touched in the sadder scenes towards the end.
Honourable mentions have to be singing cameos given to Sophia Benn as Dusty Springfield, and Melissa Brown-Taylor as P P Arnold. And a particular audience favourite in the production was ensemble member Daniel Beales who played Steve’s bumbling father and several iconic roles such as Tony Blackburn and Sonny Bono. He was a crowd favourite that had the audience laughing throughout
Tales of legendary musicians being exploited – their talents milked and abused for the benefit of unscrupulous managers and record label bosses – are as old as the industry itself. Russell Floyds cigar smoking DonArden shows the cruel side of the music industry with his threat of “I made you and I can break you” hanging over their heads. Yet the fact the Small Faces – one of the most influential bands of the 1960s – received few royalties for their music until 1997 – six years after Marriott died near-penniless in a house fire – remains one of the most unjust and tragic stories of the pop industry.
This show is one of the best I’ve seen, beautiful, poignant and full of heart. Why this show is not playing to full houses in the West End every night is beyond me.
On tour around the UK – go and see it now